Catching Up: Dave Arneson & Gaming PDFs

Over the last few days, while I’ve been celebrating Passover, some big events have occured in the gaming world.

First of all, Dave Arneson, co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons, passed away late Tuesday, April 7. I made a post about wanting to know more about Dave on Wednesday, as I was finalizing my preparations for Passover, only to have the confirmation of his death hit the gaming world later that day. I have been gathering posts in a “To Read” bookmarks folder so that I can learn a bit more about Dave before I sit down and record a short special podcast episode, much as I did when Gary Gygax passed away last year.

What most hits me about Dave’s passing is that I have been reminded of how ignorant I am of the history of this hobby that I continually seek to make my business in some way, shape or form. Over the last year we have lost a handful of early luminaries in the hobby gaming field — Gary Gygax, Erick Wujcik and Dave Arneson being but three names that immediately come to mind — and really, aside from the fact that Gary and Dave made D&D, and Erick made Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Amber Diceless Roleplaying Game, I know little to nothingabout their history in our hobby, and what their true legacy is. This is a very young field, barely past a generation in age, and yet we have no formal history documents while we have already begun to lose the early pioneers. Something needs to be done soon.

The thing that I’m most bothered about relates to the second set of big news, Wizards of the Coast’s decision to pull all PDFs from all sales outlets. Thanks to that, I cannot get any old Dave Arneson products to read and have for posterity. Thanks, WotC.

The whole Wizards PDF thing has me aching to sit down and record an episode of The Digital Front Podcast, but at the moment I simply do not have the time for personal/family reasons. I have been catching up on the industry’s reaction to that bonehead maneuver by offering a number of sales on PDF products. Some retailers have thrown a tizzy over the PDF sales, but at least one publisher (ah, Nicole, I know I can always count on you) has fired back, and another retailer has flat-out stated why PDFs are good for his brick-n-mortar store.

Perhaps once I am done dealing with my current family issue I’ll have time to properly digest all the information that has come out and perhaps pull in one or two guests to record a show on the topic (in fact, I am looking forward to). In the meantime, I continue to marvel at WotC’s decisions, hoping they will one day get anything dealing with a digital component right.


  1. It’s funny you should say this, because it mirrors my own thoughts on the matter. By pulling the sale of older versions of D&D products, WotC has made it even harder for newer gamers to appreciate the history of the hobby and the men and women who’ve contributed to it.


  2. Dave, there have actually been quite a few books about gaming/frp in the last few years. There is even a Dummies Guide to Dungeons and Dragons. Might I suggest you either get to a good American library and do some research, or just try searching a few key words on Amazon?

    And yes, those of us who were first generation frp-ers are getting old and starting to die off. Most of us are in our 60s and 70s now.

    Oh well, the world will little note nor long remember what we do, especially since it’s all coming to an end in 2012. You do good work yourself, so just keep on with what you do.

    –Ken St. Andre (Tunnels and Trolls)


  3. @James – The convergence of those two events is just painful. I would like to think that some people at WotC are kicking themselves, if not plain angry, that with Dave’s passing, his old TSR products are not available to hundreds upon hundreds of gamers who would love to own a bit of that history (or would shower them with more cash, if we just wanna go the materialistic route).

    @Ken – It’s Daniel. šŸ˜‰
    I have some of those books, and I personally know some of the history, but the more I know, the more I realize there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes stories I simply do not know and/or have no access to (perfect example: the bruhaha over the credits of D&D). I think it would be an extremely worthy endeavor (who knows, maybe one I could undertake) to create a history of the early years of our hobby before we lose more pioneers (and especially before 2012!).

    So, be ready to get an email asking for an interview. šŸ˜‰


  4. Hola, Daniel,
    You know the persons you should really interview for facts about the early years of rp gaming are people like Rick Loomis and Mike Stackpole. I suspect that they’ve paid better attention to what was happening in the whole industry than I have. There is also an excellent book called Heroic Worlds with a lot of info in it. It is mostly a bibliography of early releases, but it is full of essays by all the pioneers in the field, including two or three by me. And it’s so much closer to the source than we are now.

    Best wishes,
    Ken St. Andre


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